Council-run sports centres are your best bet for a cheap swim. Expect to pay between £2 and £4 each time you go.


Previously, the government ran a free swimming programme, with over 200 local councils offering free swimming to those aged 16 and under. Due to the current economic climate, this has stopped, but you should still contact your local authority to see if they plan to continue offering free swimming in your area, independently of this.



The cheapest way to access a football pitch is via your local authority. Many parks have grass or tarmac pitches that are either free or charge a small fee. However, if you need to find people to play with (or against!) then joining a club is your best option. To find an 11-a-side club in your area, head to www.thefa.com.

Also there are also hundreds of five-a-side teams across the country. Powerleague has indoor and outdoor five-a-side pitches and prices start from around £25 per hour – £5 each between 10 players. Visit www.powerleague.co.uk for more info.



Hiring a private tennis court costs an average of £10 per hour, but there are ways to significantly cut the cost.

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Tennis For Free works with schools, tennis clubs and local authorities throughout the UK to create tennis communities that use public park facilities for free. The scheme also provides free equipment and coaching in some locations.


Sporting schemes

Asda’s Sporting Chance scheme offers free sporting activities for children during the school holidays across the UK. To take part, just head to www.asda-sportingchance.co.uk, download a voucher and search for a participating venue in your area.

Tesco runs a similar scheme for children interested in football. The FA Tesco Skills Programme runs at 36 venues across England during school holidays, excluding Christmas. To find out more, visit www.tesco.com/football.



Cycling not only saves you money (no parking, no petrol) but also gets you and your kids fit. Try cycling to the park for family picnic.

One way to save even more on the cost of a new bike is via a salary-sacrifice scheme called Cycle 2 Work that many employers offer.

Under the scheme the employer pays for the bike and accessories and the employee repays the company each month. The repayments are taken from gross salary and the employee doesn’t pay VAT on the bike. Which? researchers have found that buying an £850 bike under a salary-sacrifice scheme could offer a saving of up to £379.



Gyms can be costly, anything from £25 to around £100 a month. If you join a chain of gyms such as LA Fitness or Virgin Active, it will cost you more if you want access to every club in the chain and still more if you want access 24/7. Sticking to just one branch at off-peak times will be cheaper.

Most clubs offer a one-day guest pass to prospective members so use this to ensure you like the gym you’re joining. Visit www.lafitness.co.uk and www.virginactive.co.uk for details of free passes. Also, never be afraid to haggle with your gym’s manager when signing up for membership - you may be able to talk your way out of paying admin or joining fees.

Local authority leisure centres offer gyms too and are usually a lot cheaper than big brand names. In most cases they offer pay-as-you-go rates as well as monthly memberships. Directgov can help you find out more on your local sports and fitness facilities.


Exercise at home or outside

If you want a full workout but don’t fancy going to the gym, you could buy a cross-trainer or exercise bike to use at home. And exercise equipment needn’t break the bank – the York Fitness Anniversary c201 cycling machine is a Which? Best Buy, and is available from £175 – less than half the price of the next cheapest Best Buy exercise bike. Check out the exercise equipment reviews done by Which? for more suggestions.

And don’t forget the totally free options - go for walk with your buggy, head for a run or a jog. All you’ll need is a decent pair of trainers, a supportive bra and clothes you don’t mind getting a bit sweaty in.



Private golf clubs are very expensive to join but many local authorities offer council-run facilities that are much cheaper.

There are also a number of websites that can help you cut the cost:

You can get the children working on their swing too, by taking them to play crazy golf – great fun for all the family!


Tenpin bowling

Tenpin bowling is an activity that the whole family can enjoy, what ever their skill level! You can find family deals by visiting www.tenpin.co.uk.


Parks and playgrounds

There is probably one within a stone’s throw of where you live, so take advantage of free playgrounds, tennis courts and even open air swimming pools. If you're new to your area, the Directgov site has a function that helps you find out about your local parks.


Helen Brown
Helen BrownHead of Content Delivery

Helen is author of the classic advice book Parenting for Dummies and a mum of 3. Before joining MadeForMums, she was Head of Community at Mumsnet and also the Consumer Editor of Mother & Baby.